How can partners, family and friends support alcohol-free pregnancies?
No safe level of alcohol use has been identified at any stage in pregnancy. Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to a range of lifelong physical, mental and behavioural disabilities for the baby.1 It can be difficult for some women to abstain from alcohol, and that’s why women who are pregnant, planning pregnancy and breastfeeding need support from their partners, friends and family to not drink alcohol during that time.
My partner is pregnant. How can I support her to not drink alcohol?
We know partners want to help and support their loved one during pregnancy but can often feel a bit unsure of what to do or how to help. Partners of pregnant women play an important role, supporting the decision to not drink.
Here’s some tips for how partners can support alcohol-free pregnancies, including when planning pregnancy:
- Go alcohol-free. The ideal way to support your partner to not drink alcohol during pregnancy is by joining her in going alcohol-free. Research tells us women are more likely to not drink during pregnancy if their partner stopped drinking too.23
- Encourage and support your partner to not drink. Let your partner know that you support them in their decision to not drink alcohol – research tells us women are more likely to not drink alcohol during pregnancy if their partner encouraged them to stop or cut back.23
- Offer alcohol-free alternatives. Women tell us being offered alcohol when they’re pregnant makes it difficult to say no. Support pregnant women to not drink alcohol by offering alcohol-free alternatives, both at home and in social situations.
- Have open discussions about alcohol use in pregnancy. While many people know about the risks associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy, a proportion of people do not know or are unsure. Support pregnant women by sharing information with family and friends that there’s no safe amount, time or type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.
- Be compassionate. For some women, stopping drinking can be difficult. It might not necessarily be the alcohol they are struggling to part with, but rather the fear of missing out on social occasions4 and what it represents for a woman’s role and identity within their family and among friends.5 Drinking alcohol can also be a way for some people to cope with difficult life circumstances. Let your partner know you are there to support them, and if they need help or someone to talk to, the Alcohol and Drug Support Line can support both you and your partner.
What other ways can friends and family support alcohol-free pregnancies?
In addition to partners, the broader family network and peer groups can play an important role in supporting women to abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Here’s some ways friends and family members can support alcohol-free pregnancies:
- Organise social occasions that don’t involve alcohol. Some women tell us it makes it difficult for them to abstain from alcohol when everyone around them is drinking.4 To support women to not drink when they are pregnant and planning pregnancy, try organising social occasions or gatherings where alcohol isn’t a feature, such as a breakfast instead of dinner.
- Reconsider your own drinking around women who are pregnant. Some women have also said it can be difficult to abstain when everyone around them is drinking.4 Having a supportive network of friends and family is valuable for women in their effort to abstain from alcohol when they’re pregnant, and you can be supportive by not drinking around them. Take this opportunity to consider how your own drinking habits might be impacting your health.
- Offer other alternatives to reward and relax. While exciting, pregnancy can also be a time of enormous pressure and scrutiny for women. Alcohol is used by some people as a form of relaxation after a stressful day or to deal with other things in their life. Support women to find healthier alternatives to managing stress and promoting relaxation, such as taking a walk, having a bath or practising mindfulness.
- Offer alcohol-free alternatives at social events. Support pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy to not drink alcohol by making it standard practice to offer alcohol-free alternatives to all people attending social events.
- Don’t pressure women (or anyone) to drink alcohol. Respect the choices women make to help keep themselves and their babies healthy. Peer pressure to drink alcohol is commonly reported by pregnant women4 – if a woman (or any person) refuses an offer for a drink, politely accept and support their decision and don’t pressure or judge them.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2020). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Peadon, E., Payne, J., Henley, N., D’Antoine, H., Bartu, A., O’Leary, C., Bower, C., & Elliot, E. (2011). Attitudes and behaviour predict women’s intention to drink alcohol during pregnancy: the challenge for health professionals. BMC Public HealthHealth, 11(584).
Crawford-Williams, F., Fielder, A., Mikocka-Walus, A., & Estermann, A., & Steen, M. (2016). A public health intervention to change knowledge, attitudes and behaviour regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Evidence Based Midwifery, 14(1), 4-10.
Kantar Public. (2020). Formative Research Alcohol and Pregnancy. Mental Health Commission, Perth WA.
Holland, K., McCallum, K., & Blood, W. (2015). Conversations about alcohol and pregnancy. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Canberra.
Page last updated: 06 January 2021